We, the Knight Riders are quite a sight to behold: three support vehicles, five physically challenged athletes, 11 able bodied support athletes.
The joke we tell is that as able-bodied athletes we need the PC athletes because we draw strength from them, not the other way around.
This was never truer than on “The Hill That Would Not End.”
We had rolled into the lunch stop across the street from Camp Simcha. This where children with life threatening illnesses spend their summers.
It is funded through donations and they are the reason we ride.
We danced in front of kids, while maintaining social distance. We ate lunch. We took pictures. As we rolled out, we were smiling.
We had 40 miles to go and while the climb to lunch had been an arduous one, now we were reaping the rewards.
Gravity pulled us away from our lunch rest as we hit speeds that would have caused speeding tickets in your hometown.
Fingers firmly grasping our bicycle handlebars, we leaned into the wind. I grabbed a momentary glance down at the hypnotic vision of the front bicycle wheel spinning ever faster. I dare not look for more than that moment. Like the Sirens singing to Ulysses in Homer’s Odyssey, the distraction could cause me to crash.
For a cyclist, a downhill is a free ride and it is pure joy. My friends tried to talk to me, but at speeds over 30 mph, a conversation is near impossible. The wind fills your ears with a whoosh.
The warmth of the sun that had caused us to drink copious amounts of water dissipated ever so slightly in the cooling winds of the descent. The winds can seep into your bike shoes or your helmet. Both have small holes for just that purpose.
A descent is where JJ’s weakness becomes his greatest strength. Sitting in a three wheeled hand cycle, JJ is mere inches, not feet off the ground.
His center of gravity is lower than anyone else riding with us. As a result, on a downhill, JJ becomes a bullet. It is like watching a bobsledder navigate an Olympic racetrack. There is no catching him, just the joy of watching him fly.
Farther down the road lay the Hawk’s Nest. We were near Port Jervis, New York. The location’s name came from the birds of prey that reside in the cliffs, but the names are of little concern to us. We focused on two things: how far were we from the finish and how much sunlight was left in the day.
The Hawk’s Nest is a series of majestic wavy roads with a steep drop to the Delaware River below. The view is magnificent and breathtaking. Riding inches from the edge makes you ever more aware of your actions. Once again, the Homer analogy crept into my brain.
Naturally, we posed for a group photo.
Then it was back on our bikes. There was a hill with our names on it and there was no getting around it, literally and otherwise.
At 4:54 p.m. we started up “The Hill that Would Not End.”
Then, my cell phone rang.
“What is that noise?” JJ inquired.
“It’s my ‘50 miles-from-home-better-pick-up-the-phone’ ringtone. “
“It’s my wife.”
My wife Janet is incredibly supportive of the work I do to train for Bike4Chai and for the work I do training others for Bike4Chai. Her one demand is that if she calls, I pick up. And since I knew she wouldn’t call unless it was important, I knew I had better answer that ringtone.
What ring would I be referring to you ask?
The one ring tone loud enough to be heard even when in the shadow of an 18-wheel Mac Truck: The blaring submarine diving horn siren.
“What are you doing?” Her tone was concern mixed with a touch of confusion.
When you have been married for over 18 years, you learn to read your partner’s voice inflections. So, I chose my next words carefully.
ME, inside my head: Select smart aleck response:
A. Nothing, just sitting here with JJ, watching grass grow.
B. I’m biking, what do you think I’m doing?
C. I’m in the middle of enrolling in an online macramé class.
D. I am biking...why do you ask?
“The tracking device says you’re not moving.”
“We are moving and I am very much alive, so please do not sell my bike on eBay.”
“Where are you?
I quickly text her a picture of a road sign.
She wrote back:
“Ouch! Is JJ going to make it?”
David Roher is a USAT certified marathon and triathlon coach. He is a multi-Ironman finisher and a veteran special education teacher. He can be reached at: [email protected]